I Resolve to Know Myself


 

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That’s Inca Kola – the best soda ever. You should try it.

When you leave home and go far from your comfort zone, you make room for God to work wonders in your life. Not that He couldn’t work wonders if you stayed home–but it’s  more fun for you if you go where He leads.

What have I learned so far?

  • You are never finished learning about a different culture–the customs, ways people live. To know life in another country, you have to live it. Thankfully I’ve been here enough time to learn a great deal, and will be here a while longer.
  • In a different setting, you learn about yourself as a character. When you’re placed in situations you’d never imagined, an interesting thing happens: you grow as a person. You make progress on your Hero’s Journey.
  • This year I celebrated Christmas in Peru, so I learned that the Lord’s birthday isn’t limited to white Christmases and trees full of lights. It’s celebrated differently all over the world, but no matter where you are, the holy day is beautiful.

I will keep my updates brief. First, on the topic of writing. January 1 is the day I started work on the third book of my series, which has not yet been titled. Being in the place where the first book was inspired, I’m confident that the third installment will be full of magic and life. The story and characters have become oddly alert, as if knowing this is where they first became.

And on reading, I’ve decided not to do the Goodreads challenge this year, focusing instead on becoming familiar with classic literature. That doesn’t mean I won’t read a new book if it seems like it’ll be good. It just means that I’m not putting pressure on myself to speed-read anything for the sake of a number.

I’m learning to crochet! I made a unicorn a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m going to learn to make dolls. My next project is to crochet a mermaid; it’s really exciting to see your work take shape. I’d been meaning to learn a new hobby for a long time now, and it is also doing much to help me learn about myself as a person.

My only resolution for 2017 was to live more and find out who I am as a person. What’s yours? Do you have any awesome plans?

The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

On Finishing Serenade & Old Clichés


There is a curious emptiness many writers feel when a project is finally done. I’ve finished editing Serenade, and find myself searching for ways to pass the time—plotting a new novel, or working on my TBR pile.

It’s tempting to keep searching the document for things to edit, but I’ve already made all the changes suggested by my beta readers. I checked for typos and inconsistencies; I mended paragraphs and smoothed out sentences. Any changes I could make now would be for the sake of doing something to the manuscript, which wouldn’t necessarily help it. I have to sit back now and work on something else, because Serenade is as close to ready as it’ll ever be.

There is a point where you know you’ve done all you can for a book, that it can stand on its own, and it’s almost time for a book release. This is an exciting feeling, for sure, but it also brings the emptiness—the sensation that you need to be working on something, writing something. There’s almost a feeling of betrayal—why isn’t your manuscript around to help you anymore?

It’s attachment, it’s habit, and it can be bittersweet. It’s also liberating, because now I can start plotting my next novel.

Thank you for providing support on this journey as I went through the beta rounds, made edits, and even procrastinated work! I don’t know exactly when the book will be out. It’ll probably be in October, because that’s my favorite month (Halloween!)

Also—Serenade is shorter than Dissonance by a couple of chapters, and I feel perfectly okay with that. A struggle I had throughout the writing process was fear of not making it the length I wanted. I read the manuscript this morning, though, and feel that it said what it needed to. It’s not worse because of those couple thousand missing words. Quality over quantity—it’s an old cliché, but a lesson I learned, and a piece of advice I will keep with me whenever I am working on a new book.

How do you deal with the emptiness after you finish writing a project? Are there specific ways in which you pass the free time?

The Hopelessness of a Firefly


moon

Crickets sang in chorus, a merry song dancing around like freedom. Fireflies drifted from bush to bush, their light bringing sparkle to the hollow. They couldn’t outshine the moon, a familiar face in the sky; some believed it saw and knew all.

In the light of the moon, I caught a firefly in a my glass jar, closing the lid before it could get away. Sometimes I doubted folklore’s claim that the moon saw everything. If it could see everything, it was cruel—or powerless to change fate.

After all, it was silent as it watched me trap a firefly in my jar. It could not, or would not do a thing to keep me from stealing the small creature’s freedom. I knew it would not save me from the small things that bothered me throughout the day.

I made my way home in silence, my back turned to the moon. It was not all-knowing or powerful, just another light by which I could see the injustice of the world. Just to be safe, I kept a firefly with me every night.

There should always be light near.

Book Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton


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The Faerie Ring follows the story of a pickpocket named Tiki. She lives with several other homeless children in Victorian London; together they make a family, looking out for each other when things get rough.

When the youngest child, Clara, falls ill with consumption, they find themselves facing a huge hospital bill. It’s more than they could steal in the time given them. Just when it seems hopeless, Tiki finds a bizarre stroke of luck and seizes it.

She manages to steal one of the queen’s rings. The reward for it is enough to pay for Clara’s medical bills, and even to make sure her little family has a decent home. The challenge is finding a way to trade it in without being caught and arrested.

But it won’t be simple. The ring is not just a bit of jewelry; it represents a truce made long ago between the Faerie court and English royalty. Some faeries will do anything to destroy the ring and what it represents, putting Tiki and her family in danger.

Even though I liked this book, it needed work. The writing could have been tightened up. If not for the several errors I spotted while reading, it would have been one of my favorite faerie stories.

I enjoyed the setting, but I wish the author had elaborated more. There wasn’t much detail for me to explore the streets of London, which sometimes made the story feel flat and a little too straightforward.

Despite it all, The Faerie Ring was a fun read. From the beginning, I wanted Tiki to be successful so she could keep her little family together. I’m going to give the next book a try soon.

Poem: Old Words


old words

old words
on crisp paper,

new words
in my racing mind…

ideas vanishing
like vapor,

foreign colors –
make me blind…

love is written
with four letters

symbols – stare
until they’re vague;

humans chasing it,
like beggars

fail to find it,
die of rage –

for old words
on crisp paper

undying love
can’t always make;

ideas vanishing
like vapor

all sorts of
illusions, fake –

love is spelled
in sets of four

but humans break
it into two.

we shouldn’t trap
it anymore,

we should make
way for new.

your old words
on crisp paper

if bent enough
eventually break;

ideas vanishing
like vapor

after your
illusions take.

Giveaway Story #3: Tears of a Daemon


Read the other stories–In the Silence and The Sailor’s Son!

Learn more about the giveaway here!

This is my personal favorite. I hope you enjoy it!

aboutgiveaway


Tyson had always preferred going places on foot, seeking open space as if it could help him control the strange power within him. For as long as he could remember, he’d felt an explosive in his chest instead of a heart, fire pulsing through his veins even in the calmest of times.

In closed spaces he was an even bigger threat. If that explosive in his chest went off in the house, there was no chance of people running. In the house, Tyson always kept a distance from his family—knowing it wouldn’t help forever.

And yesterday he’d finally lost control. Now that his life was over, he looked at his reflection in the car window and saw what he truly was: A daemon.

I hate cars, he thought, tracing patterns on the window. When Tyson doodled without thinking, he always wound up creating tongues of fire like the one that ended his life.

It smelled like lavender in this car, but Tyson suspected his presence was corrupting it with the odor of smoke. He didn’t know why the strange man with the silver car was so keen on helping him. He’d found Tyson in a shoddy old neighborhood, looking for an abandoned place to hide. He’d been looking for a shack where no one would find him unless they followed his trail of smoke.

The man’s wife hadn’t protested to letting Tyson into their spotless car. In fact, she practically shoved him in the back with their son who, though he said nothing aloud, watched the daemon with his nose in the air.

If they were hauling him to an orphanage, Tyson would find a way to escape. He couldn’t afford exploding again in the presence of other children. He dared hope, vaguely, that they would offer him some food before leaving him to charity. Tyson was already a daemon, it made no difference if he stole a cheeseburger from them before vanishing into thin air.

The blonde woman in the passenger seat turned, holding out a pile of neatly folded clothes. “These are for you,” she whispered.

She had knowing blue eyes. Tyson sensed that her words would have calmed anyone else like healing water, but he couldn’t bear to get wet. His world was one of sulfur, ash thickening his memory; smoke blurred the details, leaving only the ache of self-hatred and rejection.

Daemon, they had always called him; now he knew it was true.

He took the clothes selfishly, even though he knew he’d ruin them when he ran away. The thought brought him a pang of guilt, for something in her eyes made him trust her even though they were opposites—she with her soul of healing water, while his was of smoke and death.

The man who was driving found Tyson days before. He proceeded to ask questions about why Tyson was alone, where his parents had gone, why he was in such a bad neighborhood. The daemon knew better than to say the truth: That he’d been looking for a place to haunt, the prison where he’d live the remainder of his life.

This man persisted, finding him again and coaxing him into the car. He even brought his family the second time, perhaps in case he needed to wrestle Tyson to the ground. The daemon fixed his gaze on the clothes; if he looked into that woman’s eyes, her kindness would shake his resolve.

You don’t have to tell us what happened,” the man said as he drove. “Not yet. But we want to help.”

He had the accent of a foreigner—Italian, Tyson guessed—but his wife spoke like an American. The boy sitting next to him hadn’t said a word; he was the only person in this car treating Tyson as he deserved, like a criminal.

Should Tyson tell them what happened? He wasn’t ready to recount it, not yet, not while the echo of his sister’s dying screams fresh in his mind. Not with smoke still blurring his eyes, unwanted tears he deserved.

He closed his eyes, succumbing to the dreaded memory.

*

She’d been playing in the attic, where Father built her a dollhouse with wood from the forest behind their home. He was a talented toymaker; that dollhouse had lined pillars, a thatched roof, lace curtains…

Tyson!” she had screamed down the stairs. “I can’t reach Emma!” Emma was her favorite doll, the one she venerated like a real person.

The boy made a frustrated sound. He’d been trying to finish his charcoal drawing, his hands black from the stick he was using. Normally he helped her reach things on the shelf, but he’d been utterly absorbed in the piece…

Use your stool, Hailey,” he retorted, making a thick and pronounced line of charcoal across the sketchbook page.

She must have tried using the stool but failed, because a brief pause ensued. Then she shouted again, “Tyson!”

Another pronounced line. “I’m busy.”

TY—”

His stick of charcoal slid off the page, leaving a smudge on the tablecloth. Mother would kill him for that. Tyson felt a wave of fear and anger creep over his body, and the dark energy in his soul slipped from his control.

Suddenly the house smelled of smoke…

*

What’s your name?” the woman in the passenger seat whispered.

Tyson’s hands were trembling; he needed to leave the car before he killed an entire family. “No one needs to know,” he said through his teeth, peering out the window at the shadowy English road. “I want to get out.”

You aren’t going anywhere,” said the man. “We know what you are.”

Then why am I in your car?” Tyson shouted, exploding for the first time since the man found him. “Why would you want a daemon in your car?”

Yes,” said the blonde boy suddenly, breaking his silence. He spoke carefully in even tones, like a professor or a general. “Why is that, Giulino?”

Julian,” the man snapped. “Be kind, Peter, or say nothing.”

You aren’t a daemon,” the woman added, turning in her seat to fix Tyson with those eyes. “You’re a Changeling, and there are ways to control—”

It’s too late for that!” Tyson realized he was sobbing between words. “What’s the point controlling myself when I already killed my sister?”

He felt Peter inch away.

Because you didn’t mean to,” said the man—Julian, Giulino, whatever—“because you didn’t ask for these abilities, and they don’t have to be bad.”

My sister is dead!” Tyson shouted. “Because of me! She’s dead!”

The woman’s eyes clouded over. He feared for a moment he’d made her cry, but her words were steady. “It was a terrible accident,” she whispered. “It’s never going to stop hurting, but you deserve a new life.”

No,” he choked, “you should kill me.”

We are going to love you,” she told him, almost a command. He broke into tears just then, lacking the willpower to argue. He turned to the window, unable to stop the tears sliding down his cheeks—water instead of fire—misery instead of anger.

Daemon, they’d called him since he was a baby. Mother always said it; Father refused to make him toys, because he feared Tyson’s red eyes. No one had ever loved him like they did his sister; this woman must be an angel if she could love a daemon.

He closed his eyes, allowing this family to take him away. He shouldn’t be allowed to make his own decisions. If they refused to send this daemon to jail, he would succumb to their control.

Peter’s shoulders relaxed; perhaps it settled his nerves to see Tyson cry. He clasped his hands in his lap, addressing the daemon for the first time: “What’s your name?”

A sob escaped him. “Tyson,” choked the daemon, hating the sound of his name, how the T came powerfully like an explosion. “My name is Tyson Rakes.”

You’re one of us now, Tyson,” the man at the wheel said, looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “And we’re going to help you control your ability.”

Tyson said nothing. They might help him learn to control his ability, but nothing would erase the guilt from in his firecracker heart. They drove into the night, leaving him to wallow in miserable silence.

He was tempted to reply and say Good luck helping a daemon.


Question #3: Why is Tyson crying?

Giveaway Story #2: The Sailor’s Son


Here is the second story for the Dissonance giveaway! (If you just found out about this and want to know details about how to win, click here!) Reads for the first story and responses to that question still count, you can find it here!

Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy! Again, here is the lovely graphic explaining simply how to win!

aboutgiveaway


David West had given his old denim jacket good use. He never explained his attachment to the thing, but now it was battered and threadbare. The material was too soft and it smelled of the ocean, testament to the times Peter spent with his father out on the boats.

Peter hounded his dad to get a new jacket countless times, especially when the buttons began to come off. Now he was the one wearing it.

He picked at the last remaining button he’d secured to the cuff with extra thread. Memory of that hounding filled him with regret. Not long ago this jacket was a cause of embarrassment, but after David’s death, Peter picked up many habits he had once despised.

He still didn’t understand Dad’s attachment to the jacket, but it didn’t matter. Peter sometimes thought he would die wearing it; sometimes he fell asleep wearing it, though his father’s scent was long gone. It kept him warm where his father’s embrace once did, this ratty jacket he’d once despised.

Just like Dad, he refused to part with it, even when Enna offered to buy him a new one.

Road trips made it too easy to get caught up in sad memories. They were headed to the plantation, and had been on the road for several hours. Last time they visited, Peter hadn’t left the car. It had been too soon after the accident; he couldn’t marvel at Julian’s magical world without Dad in it.

A year had passed and Peter wasn’t sure he believed the things Julian told him. More than that, he wasn’t sure if he disbelieved on purpose for the sheer delight of exasperating the Muse—like last week, when he finally lost his patience.

We were friends before,” Julian cried last week, “and you believed me! Why would I lie to you now?”

Peter hadn’t responded. In the past he’d accepted Julian’s tales because David never questioned them.

Dad’s not coming back, said the voice in Peter’s head he hated. It’s time to make your own judgments.

He tuned it out, letting the monotonous crunch of tires on pavement numb his mind into silence.

Before long they’d turned up a driveway, heading for a sprawling plantation with creamy yellow walls. The air around it appeared to shimmer with power Julian said was present—proof the Muse was not lying, proof Peter refused to accept.

But Dad’s not coming back.

Are you awake back there?” Enna asked over her shoulder.

He could not be mad at her. Julian was easy to snap at, but his wife only tried to be a friend. “Yeah,” Peter replied.

She peered at him with a faint smile. “You’re quiet.”

Peter shrugged and nodded to the book next to him. It told of explorers who conquered the ocean; it spoke of ships and brave captains who sailed them. One of Dad’s books—his name was written on the front page, David James West.

A sad glint darkened Enna’s smile when she turned away. She didn’t drag on the conversation, giving him space like she promised on the morning after the accident. Peter liked her, but wasn’t sure about her husband. The Muse had once been his best friend; now there was a chasm between them, and it was probably of Peter’s making.

Julian broke the silence, asking a tentative question: “Do you want to go in? I imagine there’ll be lunch.”

Peter imagined what his dad would say—We’re going inside, boy, you haven’t eaten all day. It’s rude to hide in the car. Julian never did that, keeping his distance as if scared of Peter, who would fight if the Muse told him what to do.

This time Julian hadn’t ordered him in, asking if he wanted to. Peter did feel rather hungry, so he replied: “Yes, I do.”

The Muse raised both eyebrows in surprise at the sound of Peter’s voice. He exchanged a glance with his wife. Peter bit the inside his cheek; they made him feel like a badly behaved puppy who’d finally learned a trick.

You’ll like it in there,” Enna promised. “The architecture is beautiful. They have a lot of sailing relics, too,” she added as an afterthought, triggering in him a rare spark of interest.

Peter hadn’t gone sailing since the accident. He tried filling the void with books about sailors, but words on a page did no justice to the freedom he felt at sea. Seeing maritime objects in person might fill the void a little.

God, he missed his dad.

How should we behave?” Enna asked her husband, as he switched the car off. “Are we in mourning?”

Peter remembered the baffling announcement Julian made earlier that week. One of the twins who lived in the plantation had gone missing. She vanished without a trace; none of the search parties had any luck to this day.

Julian tapped at the steering wheel, torn. “Perhaps it’s best to only speak of Georgiana if she’s brought up.”

It’s still her house, though. Wouldn’t it be rude to pretend nothing happened?”

Peter listened, sliding the book into his backpack. He’d never met the twins, because the last time they came he’d been hiding in the car. However, he sensed a supernatural sadness in the glimmering fields. The Van Meteren plantation was in mourning.

Let’s not make it the dominant topic, darling,” said Julian, taking her hand. “I’m sure by now he’s had plenty of guests give condolences, not knowing for sure if she’s dead.”

Enna nodded with a sigh, holding his gaze as if searching for stability. Peter watched, torn. He’d always harbored the guilt of an intruder, having joined them six months after their wedding. They had a magic bond stronger than marriage, one he’d never understand.

Dad knew about this bond. When Peter asked about it, he said Enna saved Julian’s life. He was careful to cloak the details, as if masking a crime.

Let’s go, then,” Enna said, turning to Peter with the smile she always had for him. “I’m sure they’ll let you explore.”

Explore. He almost smiled, egged on by the word he’d read so many times in his book. It might not be an ocean and he wasn’t in a boat, but he needed an adventure.

He slung the backpack over his shoulder and followed them up the sidewalk. It smelled like roses and rainwater, though the ground was dry. The calendar said it was July, but the weather was mild for the south.

As if reading Peter’s mind, Julian said, “We aren’t in Alabama anymore. We’re in a place called Bonifay.”

He knocked at the front door, assuming a confident gait he always wore when meeting other Muses.

Perhaps it was the Muse’s confidence, but this time Peter didn’t question his claim. If Julian said they’d taken a left turn into a different universe, Peter didn’t need evidence. His life was chaotic to begin with.

The door opened a heartbeat later. Peter tried to look dignified in his ratty jacket. Lear Van Meteren looked like he’d left a corporate meeting, complete with a red necktie, hands clasped behind his back.

Ah,” he said, gray eyes flashing, “Giulino, welcome back—”

Julian,” the other man corrected him as they shook hands. When Lear raised an eyebrow, he explained, “I had to change it. I couldn’t keep on with…the other name.”

I see,” said Lear, words meditative. He glanced at Peter, who shifted uncomfortably, then turned to Enna. “I assume your name has remained the same, Mrs. Alzarsi?”

She smiled, the sadness in her face replaced with pride. “It is,” she said, accepting his handshake daintily. “Thank you for having us…” Peter could hear her unspoken words: Even though your daughter is missing.

If Lear heard them he didn’t respond, instead barking over his shoulder, “Meredith! Hurry down and say hello.”

Peter frowned, thinking it a harsh tone to use on one’s daughter. Then a girl he assumed to be Meredith hurried down the winding stairs and he lost his train of thought. Graceful and blonde, something about her energy distracted him.

She curtsied and greeted the guests with enthusiasm to counter her father’s steely distance.

Meredith!” Enna cried, embracing her. “What a delight to see you again!”

Meredith turned to Peter with eyes of curious blue. He realized his hands were sweaty; he did not know how to greet her. He could only nod, because his hands were too clammy for a handshake.

He thought with distant embarrassment that yes, Julian’s words were true. This had to be another universe because her smile changed something inside of him. For the first time in over a year, he didn’t think of his dead father or his ratty clothes or even sailing.

She’d changed something in him, and perhaps one day he’d find out what.


Question #2: What tragedy has befallen the plantation?

Guest Post: Setbacks and Opportunities


setbacksI used to live a twenty-minute drive from a massive, sandy beach. It was never warm there, never suited for lounging and sunbathing. It was always windy, and the north Atlantic water was frigid even on the warmest days. But it was a lovely spot for searching for sand dollars.

Sometimes I’d find one within a few minutes of hunting. Other days I seemed to be out of luck, and I’d give up quickly. But over time, I discovered something interesting: If I kept looking, if I kept my eyes open and had faith that I would stumble on something wonderful, a treasure always appeared. Usually it was the sand dollar I’d been hunting for, and I made it my goal to come home with one every time we visited the beach. But there were others. Beautiful moon snail shells. Purple mussels, and narrow razor clams. Yellow snail shells so tiny I could fit ten on my littlest fingernail.

But I only found those treasures because I looked for other opportunities while I was on my mission. If I’d only watched for circles, the other shapes might have slipped by.

It’s a lesson that’s come in handy for me many times. I’ve learned to keep my eyes and ears open, taking in information even when it doesn’t relate to what I think I should be searching for. It’s how I stumbled on the world of indie publishing while I thought I should be researching agents and queries, and it changed my life.

Opportunities are out there, but we have to be ready to spot them.

Sometimes the opportunities come directly from setbacks. They can be the hardest to see, but can also be the most rewarding.

During the production stage of my third book, Sworn, I thought I had things under control. I’d set reasonable deadlines for myself, left lots of time for revisions before editing and after, and felt confident that I had my proverbial ducks in a row. As I’d scheduled things, edits would be back by September, just in time for the kids to go back to school. I’d work my butt off, and have things ready to go by Christmas.

And then there was an unexpected delay on my editor’s end, and it turned out that while I still had the first editing slot in the month, it would start several weeks later than anticipated. I’d be sending the book out to him when I had hoped to be getting it back.

It seemed like a huge setback, and left me in a bit of a bind as to what to do with myself while I waited to get it back. Three weeks wasn’t enough time for me to start drafting a new novel, and I didn’t really feel like stepping away from that fictional world while I waited to dive back in with edits. I was frustrated, a little panicked at the idea that I wouldn’t have the book ready for when I’d hinted I would.

But then I started looking for the opportunity. Instead of sitting around and moping, being upset about something that no one had any control over, or wasting my time, I poked through my idea notebook for something else I might tackle.

So I wrote a prequel novella, just to keep my head in the world of my books. And what started out as an interesting exercise in getting to know a difficult and somewhat mysterious character turned into a 28,000 word novella, drafted in four days. A doomed romance, intense and beautiful (and ultimately heartbreaking, for anyone who has read the Bound trilogy). I wrote and revised it while Sworn was with my editor, and sent it to another editor who was able to fit the small project into her schedule.

And now that little side-project is with beta readers, and will be going out to my newsletter subscribers as a Christmas gift, a thank-you for the incredible support they’ve shown while waiting for me to finish the trilogy. The big novel will be out at the end of January, and in the meantime, my readers have a little fuel to add to the fire of the story.

Maybe not every cloud has a silver lining, but so much depends on whether we react to minor disasters by shutting down or by searching for the opportunities.

An editor completely ripping a book apart is a blow to the ego, but it’s also an opportunity to make our work so much better. Rejection by an agent or editor might lead us to looking into opportunities we might not have considered otherwise. Unkind words from readers can help us focus on what’s important to us about our work, and help us understand who we are (and aren’t) writing for.

So this is my goal, the thing I want to work on in the coming year. When things go badly from here on out, when the monsters jump out of the closet and make me want to cry, when I fall flat on my face in front of a crowd, I now have a plan. I’ll give myself time to be upset, to lick my wounds and tend to my bruised ego.

And then I’ll look for the opportunity, believing it will always be there if I look hard enough. Maybe it won’t be what I expected to find, but I believe there is always a beautiful treasure out there somewhere, if only I look hard enough.


Kate Sparkes is the Amazon and USA Today best-selling author of the Bound trilogy (Mature YA Fantasy). She lives in Newfoundland , but spends most of her time exploring strange lands from the comfort of her office. Visit www.katesparkes.com for details on her work, upcoming releases, social media connections, and to sign up for her newsletter and grab some free stories.

What Professor Snape’s Death Tells us about Fiction


12075060_10153859413444313_8491525309490219634_nYour news feeds are full of Alan Rickman—pictures, quotes, and tributes. Perhaps you’re tired of it, which considering the volume of posts would be understandable, but allow me to explain what it means in my point of view.

The Rickman post I’ve seen going around most is this:

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

He’s right.

A lot of people aren’t missing him as the actor Alan Rickman. Many of my friends are mourning the loss of Professor Severus Snape, who despite being a fictional character—and not one people liked all the time—played a huge role in our childhood dreams.

As a storyteller, an ‘agent of change,’ I’m sure he knew this would happen. He must have been familiar with the sensation of attachment to a fictional character, one who to so many people was real.

This does not only apply to Harry Potter.

I’ve always been fascinated by the effect a good story has on an audience. Not everyone understands why we attach to fictional characters, more so than the actors who play them. I’ll admit I don’t follow the actors in movies, but love and respect what they represent. They become faces that get us through difficult times; we look forward to seeing them at movie premieres.

A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world. No one understands this better than fandoms, communities who gather because they love the same stories. We stick together because we have a special magic in common, not just the magic found in Harry Potter!

Members of fandoms are familiar with the looks we get when we gush over a favorite movie or cry over the character’s death. We are strange to the rest of the world who consider fiction a waste of time—and we don’t care what they think, because fandoms are huge families.

Judgment from ‘normal people’ can’t budge us. It makes us stronger, steeling our bond, enforcing our love for something fictional.

If you ask me, there’s nothing fictional about the love we feel for these dreams, the stories told, and the actors behind them—even when we don’t recognize them by name.

I didn’t think much when I heard Alan Rickman had died. It wasn’t until they played a clip of him as Professor Snape that I became sad—because he was, and is, Professor Snape.  I felt like I’d gone personally to Hogwarts and one of my teachers passed away.

Many will find this sentiment silly, but more yet will agree. This is the power of storytelling, fandoms, dreaming.

Alan Rickman’s death inspired this blog post, but I didn’t follow him as Alan Rickman. I followed him as Professor Snape, the favorite teacher to many. I never followed him as an actor, but he was part of my life and those of many other Potterheads.

So tell me fiction isn’t real. Tell me the sadness so many now feel is fake, an irrelevant waste of time. I disagree! Fiction might not be tangible, but it’s made so many people whole, creating beautiful friendships and unforgettable moments.

RIP, Alan Rickman, and thank you for giving us Professor Snape.